Fumiko Miura

Writing of Fumiko Miura

Me as I Flee by Sohichi Furikwara


A half-naked woman
her throat and mouth blasted by
the heat rays, holding
a baby that keeps seeking
for milk from her mother's breast.

On the red surface
of a sphere with rough red soil
 like the planet Mars
Never shall I forget the smell
of human bodies burning.

As they listen to
the emperor on radio
in surrender speech
the hibakusha (bomb victims) wailing,
hair falling, skin stigmata

I was told once more:
'Metastasis suspected.'
This morning, I stopped
preparing concoctions of
Chinese herbal medicine

Waking from my dreams
to reality, my new/ birthday,
twenty-third of June, when my body
reborn as night was dawning

Since I was informed
of my fatal illness I
have endured eight times
the surgeon's knife, I turn now
to tanka, as proof of life.

Tanka is the name of an ancient form of Japanese poetry.

Tanka are 31-syllable poems that have been the most popular form of poetry in Japan for at least 1300 years. As a form of poetry, tanka is older than haiku, and tanka poems evoke a moment or mark an occasion with concision and musicality.

During Japan's Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) it was considered essential for a woman or man of culture to be able to both compose beautiful poetry and to choose the most aesthetically pleasing and appropriate paper, ink, and symbolic attachment---such as a branch, a flower---to go with it.

Tanka were often composed as a kind of finale to every sort of occasion; no experience was quite complete until a tanka had been written about it.

Tanka have changed and evolved over the centuries, but the form of five syllabic units containing 31 syllables has remained the same.Topics have expanded from the traditional expressions of passion and heartache, and styles have changed to include modern language and even colloquialisms.

In Japanese, tanka is often written in one straight line, but in English and other languages, we usually divide the lines into the five syllabic units: 5-7-5-7-7.

Usually, each line consists of one image or idea; unlike English poetry, one does not seek to "wrap" lines in tanka, though in the best tanka the five lines often flow seamlessly into one thought.

Source: http://www.americantanka.com/about.html.

Atomic Bomb Disease

With no detailed information about the "new type of bomb" issued by the government, we did not know for about a week that it was actually the atomic bomb. We learned that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan on the day of the Nagasaki atomic bombing. I was infuriated at our government, which still urged us to fight against the allied forces. We were injured, and suffering from a strange weakness with no adequate treatment. Food, clothes, information: everything was in shortage. Yet the government still shouted its slogan: "Ichioku gyokusai!" ("100 million people should meet honourable deaths; never surrender!") Who did the Japanese government exist for, I wondered?

Hibakusha victim

Shortly after the explosion, many survivors noticed in themselves a strange illness: vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, high fever, weakness, purple spots on various parts of the body, bleeding from the mouth, gums, and throat, the falling-out of hair, and a very low white blood cell count. We called the illness "atomic bomb disease", and many of those who were only superficially injured died soon or months after. The lack of medical supplies and information about the after-effects of atomic radiation made it impossible to provide us with adequate treatment. First aid was all we could get.

Decades afterwards, I had a series of operations for cancer, which may be attributable to my having been exposed to radiation. However, I am not yet destroyed. With the blessing of gods and Buddha, I have been allowed to live. For the sake of those who were killed without mercy during and after the Nagasaki atomic bombing, and also for myself, I want to be able to survive for many more years. My physical being may be transient, but I believe that my spiritual being can remain undefeated. I wish sincerely that human beings will become wise enough to abandon all forms of nuclear weapons in the near future.


"I was allowed to survive"

When I came to, it was evening. I was lying in the front yard of the headquarters - I still do not know how I got there - covered with countless splinters of glass, wood and concrete, and losing blood from both arms. I felt dull pains all over my body. My white short-sleeved blouse and mompe (the authorities ordered women, young and old, to wear these Japanese-style loose trousers) were torn and bloody. I felt strangely calm. I looked down at my wrist watch; it was completely broken.

Mother and child survivors

I sat in a field of rubble watching the sun set. I thought this was the end of Nagasaki, and of Japan. I prayed that my family might have escaped injuries and be alive. I had been taught to believe that the kamikaze (divine wind) would blow some day to save Japan from crisis, leading us to a decisive victory, but realised that there was no divine wind to attack the American plane; instead, a bomb of huge power had exploded over us, when we were totally unprepared.

Blessed by fate, I was allowed to survive. But my normal wartime routine had suddenly been interrupted by death and horror. I felt guilty for being alive. I learned later that the primary target for this second bomb had been Kokura, the largest industrial city in northern Kyushu; Nagasaki, which was a shipbuilding centre, was the secondary target. On that morning of August 9, when the bomber named Bockscar reached the sky over Kokura, clouds hung heavily over the city, and the plane, nowrunning low on fuel, turned towards Nagasaki. When it reached the centre of Nagasaki city, visibility was still poor. So it moved 3,300m north-west, and found a hole in the cloud large enough to drop a bomb through. It exploded at 11:02.

Many people were trapped under fallen debris; some who survived the blast were burned to death when subsequent fires raged through the city. Charred bodies lay scattered on the red wasteland. I wrote some poems about this inhuman attack: "Blown out by the bomb/A horse's intestines are/Scattered all around; /A half-immolated cat,/Crazed with hunger, attacks them." "A half-naked woman/ Her throat and mouth blasted by/The heat rays, holding/A baby that keeps seeking/Milk from her mother's breast."


The Air-Raid Sounded

The 240,000 citizens of Nagasaki were quite unprepared for the attack. I remember the air-raid warning sounded early that morning, but a few hours later it was cancelled - I don't remember exactly when, but probably before eight o'clock. It was a scorchingly hot day; from daybreak, cicadas were singing loudly. In the air-raid shelter, we were sweating profusely in our padded hoods and long-sleeved jackets, which were supposed to protect us against burns and injuries.

Nagasaki Survivors

So it was a relief when the warning was cancelled, and we removed our padded hoods and returned to our duties. Following a government order issued in February 1944, middle- and high-school students throughout Japan were recruited to work at weapons manufacturing plants or at places related to the military. The Japanese people, regardless of age and sex, worked, offering their precious lives in "a heroic sacrifice" to carry out the seisen or sacred war. We were taught to become faithful shiko no mitate - humble shields for the Emperor.

I was doing some clerical work for the Japanese imperial army. At about 11 o'clock, I thought I heard the throbs of a B-29 circling over the two-storey army headquarters building. I wondered why an American bomber was flying around above us when we had been given the all-clear. There was no noise of anti-aircraft fire. We were working in our shirt sleeves; and all the windows and doors were wide open because it was so stiflingly hot and humid in our two-storey building.

At that moment, a horrible flash, thousands of times as powerful as lightning, hit me. I felt that it almost rooted out my eyes. Thinking that a huge bomb had exploded above our building, I jumped up from my seat and was hit by a tremendous wind, which smashed down windows, doors, ceilings and walls, and shook the whole building. I remember trying to run for the stairs before being knocked to the floor and losing consciousness. It was a hot blast, carrying splinters of glass and concrete debris. But it did not have that burning heat of the hypocentre, where everyone and everything was melted in an instant by the heat flash. I learned later that the heat decreased with distance. I was 2,800m away from the hypocentre.


Hibakusha: The Story of Fumiko Miura

A Survivor's Tale

The bomb dropped on Nagasaki, August 9, 1945 and killed 74,000 people, injured as many again and left millions homeless. Poet Fumiko Miura, who was then a 16-year-old resident of the city, remembers that apocalyptic day.


The remains of Urakami Cathedral

August 9 approaches, and I am reminded again of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki 57 years ago, when I was a 16-year-old schoolgirl. I'm 73 now, and even now I seem to hear screams for help. That one plutonium bomb killed 74,000 people and heavily injured 75,000. It had the explosive power of 21,000 tons of TNT, and the temperature of the ground at the hypocentre of the explosion rose in a flash to 3,000-4,000 degrees. Almost everyone within four kilometres of the explosion was burned and killed, or received external injuries.


Note: The text for this story was adapted from an article that appeared in the Guardian UK, August 6, 2002, written by Fumiko Miura.  Extracts from Fumiko Miura's testimony were taken from her own book, Pages from the Seasons and translated by James Kirkiup.

Surviving victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are called hibakusha.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/aug/06/nuclear.politicsphilosophyandsociety.